Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lion Bites Southside Girl, 13, in Mexico Teen at Wolfson after Arm Injuries

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lion Bites Southside Girl, 13, in Mexico Teen at Wolfson after Arm Injuries

Article excerpt

Byline: Veronica Chapin and Ralph Abreu, Times-Union staff writers

Brittany Regelski dreams about a mangling attack she suffered by a caged lion last week in Mexico and trembles when she thinks she might not play basketball again, but the 13-year-old Jacksonville girl said she doesn't blame the animals.

"It wasn't their fault," she said in a shy voice at Wolfson Children's Hospital yesterday. "Now they're my favorite animal."

With more than 300 stitches in her left arm, the Landmark Middle School student winced as she moved to describe a harrowing attack by one of a pair of lions used as an attraction at a restaurant in Cozumel. She was at Wolfson for evaluation after surgery at a hospital in Mexico, as first reported by Times-Union news partner First Coast News.

Brittany, her mother, Penny Pilcher, and 15-year-old sister, Ashley Regelski, were in the midst of a weeklong group scuba-diving trip and were at the Parrilla La Mision in Cozumel for dinner on Wednesday night when the attack happened.

Brittany was outside the restaurant where a pair of 2-year-old lions were inside a cage. She and others had been petting one of the animals through openings large enough to reach through, she said. She refused to touch the animal's head but did touch its neck, she said.

But it was when she turned to talk with someone that the lion snagged the young teen's middle finger and began pulling her to the cage.

"She moved from my finger to my arm," Brittany said. "I needed help so I just started screaming."

It took about five minutes and a power water hose to free Brittany after the lion clamped onto her arm. A man initially tried to pull her loose, but it turned into a tug-of-war, with Brittany on the ground, her shoulder pulled to the cage.

"I thought I was going to lose my arm," she said. "At night I have dreams about it . . . just my arm in the cage and the blood all over."

Photos of the injury show a left arm severely torn above the elbow. A left-hander, Brittany worries she won't play basketball again.

"That's all that crossed my mind," she said.

In a phone interview yesterday, restaurant owner Estella Miranda said Brittany and a group of four or five teens had approached the mesh-lined cage with the declawed lions near the restaurant. …

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